AFTER an investigation that took more than a year, Microsoft has filed its first lawsuit over click fraud, where people manipulate clicks on a Web advertisement. Microsoft filed the civil complaint on Monday in United States District Court in Seattle against Eric Lam, Gordon Lam and Melanie Suen, of Vancouver, British Columbia, along with several corporation names they were believed to have used, and several unnamed parties.
Microsoft said it found a pattern of click fraud on its search pages, where lists ranked by relevance and popularity appear alongside a handful of paid results. Advertisers bid on what they will pay to appear in the paid-search results for certain keywords. The more an advertiser pays, the higher they are in that list, and advertisers usually pay for each click on their ad.
In March 2008, several auto insurance advertisers began complaining to Microsoft that traffic to their ads was spiking suspiciously. Microsoft looked at the searches being conducted, and noticed that searches for keywords like “auto insurance quote” had sharply increased. And clicks to the advertisers appearing at the top of the paid-search results listings for those terms were high.
In the suit, Microsoft explains how its adCenter system was scammed, and how it cracked the case.